When The Holy Spirit Lays Something On Your Heart…

…Listen and Obey. 

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I am in the beginning stages of planning something for the women of my church. The idea came to me after several months of hearing about many friends within our church dealing with various difficult circumstances. Some are dealing with their own illnesses or that of a family member, death of a loved one, marital conflict, parenting rebellious children, keeping the home front functioning while their husband is deployed, financial struggles, sin strongholds, and several other circumstances. I know that many times women carry the burden of caring for others while often neglecting themselves. Our church is large and many of us do not know each other. I want to bring us together for a day so that we can fellowship together and build lasting friendships and support systems. I want the women of our church will feel the presence of God even while they are dealing with heartache, tragedy, complacency, or any difficulty within their lives. I want our women to feel loved by God and know that God sees us and meets us right where we are.

Like I said, this is only the beginning stage… I have met with some church leadership who will present my ideas to the church board and staff. If approved, I can plan and organize to my hearts content. Just in the past week of meetings and creating a possible outline of events, I have felt the Holy Spirit working in my heart. I found myself crying for no apparent reason this morning as I was contemplating what to write for my presentation. The burden to encourage and to pray for the women of my church has swelled up in my soul.

I write this to you as a plea for your prayers. Please pray that if it is God’s Will for my ideas to come to fruition, that everything will fall into place:

  • that the church will give their approval
  • that a date can be set
  • that finances and child care will be available so that the women can attend
  • that God will give me the words to say
  • that the event team can create a plan that honors Him

Thank you for your prayer support! I’ll keep you updated!

The Shack

In light of the new movie adaptation of The Shack, I thought I would reblog my review of the book. I have no plans to watch the movie because of how strongly I feel about the bad and misleading theology the book presents. I would consider watching it if someone asked me to give my opinion of it but I highly doubt the movie would make significant enough changes from the book to change my opinion of it. If you choose to watch the movie and/or read the book, I encourage you to do so with caution and with careful consideration and comparison to scripture. Do not let the emotional story cloud your discernment.

Heart Treasures

Here is my “review” of the book, “The Shack.” I wrote this and e-mailed it to all of my friends in August 2008 after reading “The Shack” for my church’s book club. Since the book is still making its rounds in the Christian community and since it came up in conversation in the comments section of another blog; I thought that sharing this would be relevant.

*****

I recently read a popular book called “The Shack” by William P. (Paul) Young. I am giving you my opinion of this book now because I can find a ton more positive reviews about this book than negative. Especially within the Christian community; most of the reviews/comments I have read give mostly praise and “how this book changed my life” perspectives. Personally, for a book that many people consider as Christian Fiction; I find this book to be mostly unbiblical and very…

View original post 1,423 more words

Observing Lent

Today is Ash Wednesday… the day that many observe the Lent season. I was not raised in a family that participated in Lent. I always thought that Lent was a Catholic ritual. In high school I asked several friends why they came to school with ash on their foreheads and they could never give me a good reason for why they “observe” Lent. They seemed to be doing it because they were told to do it or because that is what they have always done. I never actually participated in an Ash Wednesday service until 2010 when we were living in Japan. When the pastor of our church did the service, I found that I really liked the concept behind Lent.

 Got Questions?org gives this definition of Lent:

“Lent is a period of fasting and repentance traditionally observed by Catholics and some Protestant denominations in preparation for Easter. The length of the Lenten fast was established in the 4th century as 40 days. During this time, participants eat sparingly or simply give up a particular food or habit. Ash Wednesday and Lent began as a way for Catholics to remind themselves to repent of their sins in a manner similar to how people in the Old Testament repented in sackcloth, ashes, and fasting (Esther 4:1-3; Jeremiah 6:26; Daniel 9:3; Matthew 11:21).”

I have found online that there is great controversy between Christians who think it is okay or not okay to observe Lent. It is important to note that Lent or any other Christian tradition or act of faith is NOT required in order to receive God’s gift of salvation and it will not win God’s blessing or make us more holy. It is not required for salvation and it is not commanded in scripture to celebrate Christmas or Easter but we do so because it brings us joy to celebrate the birth, death, and resurrection of our Lord and Savior. While participating in Lent or other traditions, some people may have wrong motives or they will be doing it because that is what they have always done. For me, it is a time of reflection and a time to remove something from my life that is hindering a closer relationship with God or to add something to my life that should have been doing already.

A friend linked to this graphic yesterday and I think that it gives a good representation of how I choose to observe Lent:

Lent-R1

This, of course, is something we should keep in mind all year and not just in the weeks leading up to Easter. I think that observing Lent is a humbling way to focus our thoughts and actions. We also need to keep in mind that while doing any type of fasting/abstaining/self-denial that it should be personal between you and God. While there is nothing wrong with telling others that you are observing Lent, it should not be used as a way to bring attention and glory to ourselves. Instead, we should be humble and desire to bring glory to the Father.

“When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” Matthew 6:16-18 NIV

This year, I prayed about what God would have me do (or not do) during the Lent season. The church that I attend does not do an Ash Wednesday service, so I will not have ashes on my forehead today. I found my Ashes to Fire Lent devotional book that I received from my church in 2011 and I plan read through the daily reflections. I also am starting:

668524: The Love Dare for Parents The Love Dare for Parents

By Stephen Kendrick & Alex Kendrick / B&H Books

…a 40-day challenge to daily demonstrate love to my children. My prayer is that during this time I will purposely be focused on Christ and with His help also purposely make time to show my love to my girls. My daily prayer is for the Lord to give me patience and wisdom and help me to be slow to anger.

Do you observe Lent? Why or Why Not?

 

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Transforming Church in Rural America

This book caught my eye because I just moved to North Dakota. Although the town itself would not be considered “rural” all of the surrounding areas most definitely are. Not to mention that this is very rural compared to my last four years in Okinawa, Japan.

The author, Shannon O’Dell, is a pastor who felt called to a rural dying church with a congregation of 31 people. He describes his journey of struggles and victories as his church made many changes and eventually became a congregation of 2,000. This book seems to be geared toward pastors and people involved in church leadership. He emphasizes five important goals that he feels every church should have as V.A.L.U.E.–Vision, Attitude, Leadership, Understanding, & Enduring Excellence.

Overall, I think that this book has a great message and good tools to help leadership stay focused on what is important when leading a church. I think that the book is an easy read but is repetitive in some places. O’Dell’s enthusiasm is very apparent and his testimony will probably be encouraging to struggling churches. I plan to give it to my pastor, who seems to have a similar vision for my new church.

In accordance with the Federal Trade Commission I am required to disclose that Thomas Nelson provided this book for free in exchange for my review. I was not required to write a positive review and the opinions I have expressed are my own.

Order at Christian Book Distributors through the following link!

I get credit for all purchases made through my CBD links!

Transforming Church in Rural America: Breaking All the Rurals

By Shannon O’Dell / New Leaf Publishing

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I review for BookSneeze

The Shack

Here is my “review” of the book, “The Shack.” I wrote this and e-mailed it to all of my friends in August 2008 after reading “The Shack” for my church’s book club. Since the book is still making its rounds in the Christian community and since it came up in conversation in the comments section of another blog; I thought that sharing this would be relevant.

*****

I recently read a popular book called “The Shack” by William P. (Paul) Young. I am giving you my opinion of this book now because I can find a ton more positive reviews about this book than negative. Especially within the Christian community; most of the reviews/comments I have read give mostly praise and “how this book changed my life” perspectives. Personally, for a book that many people consider as Christian Fiction; I find this book to be mostly unbiblical and very questionable. I was going to attempt to write a long overview of the book with my side notes, opinions, and scripture. I decided not to do this because most of the problems I have with the book are major theological issues. Instead, I will refer you to a couple of reviews that I found helpful in my quest to better understand “The Shack.” Both confirmed my issues with the book but also mentioned things that I did not notice during my first reading of it.

I highly recommend that you read these reviews.

  • The second review was written by James B. De Young (Update: At the time of my original blog post, this review was available for free in PDF form. It has been published since then and is now available for purchase. It is called Burning Down The Shack).

If you have not read “The Shack;” please know that I am NOT recommending this book. If you prefer to read it before hearing my “spoilers” and opinions or reading other reviews; I encourage you to read it with discernment. I recommend reading the above reviews afterward to give you better insight on what the Bible says compared to the book’s point of view. (And compare the book’s “theology” with the Holy Bible; not with what “feels good.”)

*****

Summary of “The Shack”:

This book is a fiction story about a man (named Mack) whose young daughter (Missy) was kidnapped and brutally murdered. Afterwards, he lives with “The Great Sadness.” A few years later, Mack receives a note in the mail saying: “Mackenzie, It’s been a while. I’ve missed you. I’ll be at the shack next weekend if you want to get together. –Papa”

It is revealed early on that “Papa” is Nan ’s (Mack’s wife) favorite name for God. Mack decides to go to the shack (place where Missy was murdered) to find out if God would be there.

At the shack; Mack meets the three persons of God (Papa-God the Father, Jesus, and Sarayu-the Holy Spirit). Throughout Mack’s stay at the shack; he has detailed and emotional conversations about love, forgiveness, who God really is, etc.  with each person of the Trinity.

Towards the end of the book; Mack forgives his daughter’s killer and becomes at peace with God (instead of being angry with him). “The Great Sadness” leaves and his life is changed.

*****

Before “The Shack”:

Before I read “The Shack” I did not know anything about it. It was chosen for my church’s Book Discussion Group. My life had been very busy with directing our church Vacation Bible School, directing the church Women’s Council, my home business, chasing my 19 month old daughter, and managing the rest of my while my husband was overseas with a military assignment–all while I was 5 months pregnant with my second daughter.

Although I had participated in a previous book discussion; the most recent one I missed because I could not find time to read the chosen book before the set date. After VBS was over I realized that the book meeting for “The Shack” was in two weeks. I was told that it was an easy read and that several people had read the book for the discussion. So…I requested a copy of the book hoping that I would have time to read it. I was able to read it within 3 days…

*****

After “The Shack”:

The first several chapters were emotional for me as the author reveals Mack’s tragic circumstances and how he handled them. I couldn’t help but think how  I would be able to cope if I lost my daughter in a similar way. I can only imagine the depression that I would fall under and the anger that I would have towards God and the person responsible for her loss; if something ever happened to her. My tears fell in sympathy to Mack’s turmoil.

My problems with the book start when Mack meets God. I turned down corners pages that I found disturbing statements, ideas, etc. on them. I wanted to find scripture later to back up the issues that I had. As the book went on; my discomfort with it went up.

When I finished “The Shack” the thing that disturbed me the most was the fact that it had been chosen for the church book club. I assumed when I received the book that the church was promoting it as a good book. I immediately e-mailed my husband asking him to pray for me as I research the scripture and other reviews. I wanted to be sure that I could back up my problems with the book; with scripture. I started praying for my church discussion group and the discussion we were going to have soon. I hoped and prayed that I was not the only one who had issues with “The Shack.”

*****

Good Points:

Like I sort of mentioned before, the author created a very tragic and emotional story line. I love books that are able to tug at my heart strings and cause me to cry, laugh, etc. If a book can do this; it is easy to get absorbed into it as if I am there too. I can imagine the characters, scenery, etc. in my head and it becomes like a movie as I am reading. This book was able to do this for me.

Mack experienced a tragedy that some people may be able to relate to. The circumstances may not be the same for everyone; but anyone who has something tragic happen in their life goes through a variety of emotions and coping mechanisms. Mack seems to struggle with issues about God that many people struggle with. All of us have low points in our lives where we give up, turn to addictions, crawl under the covers and never want to come out, cry, etc. Ultimately, God wants us to turn to him; but a lot of people tend to dwell in their misery before they do.

Mack’s road to forgiveness is long but he does eventually come to forgive the person who hurt his daughter. Because of this; his burden of depression was lifted and he is able to comfort his family and help them through their depression.

*****

Problem Areas:

Like I mentioned before; I am not going to go into detail about the problems. Instead, I recommend reading the above mentioned reviews. They both go into great detail about the problems and use scripture to explain what is different between the theology of the book and the Bible.

The issues that I had with the book include: God (the Father and the Holy Spirit) is portrayed as a woman, Bible is undermined, God doesn’t judge (because of love), sin is it’s own punishment, Jesus is the “best” way; not the “only” way to the Father, Universal Reconciliation is portrayed throughout the book, institutions such as government, seminary, marriage, etc. are portrayed as not of God, there is no authority within the Trinity, authority within humans is “man’s problem” not God’s, and the list goes on and on.

*****

My Book Club:

We had a great discussion about the book. I think that everyone came with the understanding that the Bible is the final authority. Some people (like me) were very passionate about pointing out the problems in the book. Others said that they read it as a fiction book and filtered out the bad theology; knowing that it was untrue based on what they know to be true. Someone else came with a completely different view point. She focused on the Missy murder storyline and was more upset about that than anything else. But when others brought up problem areas; she asked very good questions that created even more great discussion.

*****

As someone told me, and I told my discussion group…

”In the end it doesn’t matter what we believe, think or feel about something.

All that matters is what God tells us in the Holy Bible.”

*****

“But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves. Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping.” 2 Peter 2:1-3

My Day Of Baking

Since every blog that I have posted this month has been about food; today’s post will fit right in. Here are a few pics of the baking I did yesterday in preparation for the bake sale my church held today.

Cookie Bread (Aka: Amish Friendship Bread)

White Cake with Vanilla Frosting & Strawberry Cupcakes

Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting & Walnut Cupcakes

Mini Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting & Walnuts

Mini White Cake with Fondant

2 Layer White Cake with Vanilla Icing & Fondant

*****